The difficulty of getting a winning score over the line at county Armagh Golf Club is often remarked upon, and justifiably so given the course's particularly testing closing stretch. However, Adam Hunniford made a mockery of that cliché as he romped down the home straight to prevail in the Sunday Stableford on 9 July.
Having recorded eight pars and five bogeys in his opening 13 holes of the McAnenly Transport-sponsored event, Hunniford will likely have stepped onto the 14th tee hoping for a reasonably solid showing over the last five to complete a satisfactory morning's graft at the competitive chalkface.
But the nine-handicapper produced rather more than that by proceeding to complete those remaining five holes in one under par. He posted a four at Sequoias before birdieing the 15th and, in an admirable display of composure under pressure, parring the 16th, 17th and 18th for a superb gross 74 that sealed a merited maiden victory of the season.
That bountiful late points grab was decisive too, because Paul Pender also finished strongly to match the 41-point Hunniford haul but ultimately had to settle for second place on a back-nine break of tie. Pender had already turned in a string of impressive and prizewinning performances in 2017, and this was just another.
Adam Hunniford, winner of the stableford competition sponsored by McAnenly Transport Ltd, is presented with his prize by Sean McAnenly. Also pictured are County Armagh Golf Club Captain Richard Stewart and other prizewinners (L-R) Martin Carson, Paul Pender, Mark Keogh, Shea Smyth and Dermot O'Neill.
After reaching the turn at four over par, the Bankers' Cup champion parred the 10th and 11th before a birdie out at Ballyheridan confirmed his ‘in contention' status with six holes left to play. And bogeys at the 13th and 14th, although unwelcome, were soon forgotten amidst the gutsy run of four consecutive pars with which the now nine-handicapper concluded his latest terrific round.
Forty-one points was also the tally amassed by the irrepressible Paul Doyle, who filled top spot in category 1. Doyle's marvellous level-par offering included birdies at the 1st, 5th, 12th and 17th, with his only dropped shots bunched together in an uncharacteristically untidy four-over-par spell from the 8th to the 10th.
Equalling Paul's gross 70 and also registering four birdies was Shea Smyth, whose 39 points earned him second position in category 1 and a new handicap of two, which is due reward for consistently top-notch golf.
Martin Carson was another to return 41 points, and he deservedly took the category 2 plaudits. A nerveless 4, 5, 4 sequence from the 16th to the 18th will no doubt have pleased Carson just as much as his earlier birdie at the Quarry.
Completing the day's 41-point quintet was Mark Keogh, whose excellent outing contained seven pars and secured both the category 2 runner-up prize and a one-shot handicap reduction.
Thomas Crowe had plenty to crow about in category 3 as his tremendous 40-point scorecard scooped the honours ahead of Dermot O'Neill, who parred the last two holes on his way to 38 points and a return to the winners' enclosure after a five-week absence.
Individual ambition was temporarily set aside the previous day, Saturday 8 July, for a Four-Ball Classic in which each team put forward their two best stableford scores at 14 holes and their three best at the other four, namely the 5th, 10th, 14th and 18th.
Triumphant here were the canny quartet of John White, Martin Murphy, Paul Smyth and Nat McGeown, whose hefty 101-point total ensured a relatively comfortable three-point winning margin over a second-placed outfit comprising Neil Linton, Brian Loney, Ian Ritchie and, providing a hint about what would transpire 24 hours later, Adam Hunniford. Meanwhile, the tricky trio of Gary Lappin, Neill Dowzell and Danny McGee made light of their one-man disadvantage to take third with 96 points.
A few days later, the Ladies and Gents Open Stableford on Wednesday 12 July saw Una Cullinane and Noel Muldoon emerge victorious with fantastic scores of 38 points and 45 points respectively.
Finally, well done to Joe Rooney on his creditable top-20 finish in the Ulster Boys Championship at Knock on 11-13 July. Joe was 12 over par for the 54-hole tournament, which was eventually won by Jack Doherty of Carton House on one over.